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Getting on the same page with clients.

Posted on May 27th, 2010 by Jeff

Photo: http://www.jamitworks.com/ProcessFolder/WSD3

I recently was working with a client and as far as I could tell all was going smoothly–the back and forth was going well, the design comps were all progressing smoothly.

Or, at least, I should say that I thought they were.

We had a meeting with them earlier this week and, while there was nothing drastically missing in our lines of communication, there was one thing that struck me as being off. The client had mentioned that the wireframes (define) that she sent me were not meant to be a guideline for the design, but rather a guideline for the business purposes that needed to be solved.

Wow–that’s some high level stuff there. Not that I felt they were wrong and I was right, or that I thought they felt the same way–the thing that I was interested in was that something that I thought was pretty industry standard, was obviously not. I’ve always used wireframes for getting upper level buy-in for overall content layout, and as a basis for where the design should flow from. What she was understanding their purpose to be was different. Not wrong, just different.

Seems that she wanted me to take this and run off a few comps that solved their business needs in a few different ways–not necessarily just different schemes, but semi-different layouts altogether. This is what confused me–the value to me of a wireframe (theoretically) is that they break down the overall layout of a website into an easily digestible visual that all levels (especially C-level folk) can buy into. Now to me, if we’re going to present a wireframe to these people, but then come back with something that doesn’t fit into the visual that we showed them, that is going to cause an issue. Thus, what the client was proposing just seemed a bit out of order to me, but it get me thinking, and that this might be a nice new way to work, at least with certain clients.

What we decided on was that whenever they had internal meetings and would be producing their own wireframes, I’d take these and in turn re-purpose them into two or three different layout wireframes, rather than start fleshing anything out. This way they could see a few options and wouldn’t get billed for ideas that might not work for their needs.

It also added a flag (or something like that, not sure how to describe it) in my head that just because I know a word, and assume that it’s widely accepted, doesn’t make it so. Communication is not only critical to a successful relationship, it’s also critical for a project moving smoothly and making sure that everyone gets what they need, and that the product is as best as it possibly can be.

Any tips or suggestions for this sort of thing you’ve run into with client work–we’d love to hear it. Think on.

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